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Five Things To Know Before Buying a Fishing Kayak

Whatever reason you’re in the market for a fishing kayak, here are five questions you’ll want to answer before making a purchase.

Kayak angler at sunset
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, there are a few questions to consider before buying a fishing kayak. Kal Visuals / Unsplash

So, you want to buy a fishing kayak? Maybe you want to fish beyond the shore, but you have limited time, budget and space. Or you’re a seasoned angler looking to add a kayak to your arsenal. Maybe you’re already a kayak angler, and you’re ready to expand your plastic fleet. Whatever reason you’re in the market for a fishing kayak, here are five questions you’ll want to answer before making a purchase. https://www.youtube.com/embed/OQfeo3r5jtU

Where Do You Kayak-Fish?

The first question to answer is: Where will you kayak-fish most often? Do you spend most of your time on rivers, lakes, ponds, tidal marshes or the open ocean? The type of water you fish will determine the best kayak for you.

Old Town kayak
A long kayak over 13 feet long and less than 30 inches wide will cut through waves, wind, and current to cross long distances with less effort. West Marine / Old Town

Kayaks come in two basic shapes: long and narrow, and short and wide. A long kayak over 13 feet long and less than 30 inches wide will cut through waves, wind, and current to cross long distances with less effort. The best open-water kayak has a low-profile seat that puts the paddler close to the water for a more efficient stroke.

A kayak less than 13 feet long and more than 30 inches wide is more stable and maneuverable to sneak into skinny backwater and allow the angler to stand up while fishing. These boats often feature an elevated frame seat. This seat looks and feels like a lawn chair, which is more comfortable and makes it easier to stand up and fish.

Yellow Wilderness Systems kaya
A kayak less than 13 feet long and more than 30 inches wide is more stable and maneuverable to sneak into skinny backwater. West Marine / Wilderness Systems

Do You Need a Sit-on-Top, Sit-Inside or Inflatable?

Sit-on-top kayaks are most popular for fishing because they are stable and easy to operate. With a sit-on-top kayak, the paddler sits on top of the kayak deck. This makes the kayak more stable and comfortable. A sit-on-top is easier to enter and exit, from land or on the water. For kayak anglers, a sit-on-top offers more space for installing accessories and carrying gear within reach of the seat.

Pelican kayak
A sit-on-top is easier to enter and exit, from land or on the water. West Marine / Pelican

Sit-inside kayaks, with the paddler sitting inside of the hull, provide protection for the paddler and gear. These kayaks are popular with anglers looking to combine fishing with camping. The hull is narrower and the seat is lower to the water, so paddling a sit-inside is more efficient. Sit-insides are also lighter than a similar-size sit-on-top, making them easier to carry and transport.

Wilderness sit-inside kayak
Sit-inside kayaks provide protection for the paddler and gear. West Marine / Wilderness Systems

Inflatable or folding kayaks are popular with people who have limited options for storage and transportation. Deflated and folded, the kayak fits in a convenient carry case that you can stick in a closet or load into a hatchback. Inflated and rigged-up, the kayak is ready for fishing in sheltered waters close to the launch.

Inflatable kayak folded up
Deflated and folded, inflatable kayaks fit in a convenient carry case that you can stick in a closet or load into a hatchback. West Marine / Kokopelli

Is a Paddle Kayak Best for You?

Paddling is popular with kayak anglers looking for an easy and inexpensive way to get on the water. If you plan to fish super-skinny water or a rocky river, a paddle kayak has the shallowest draft. Paddle kayaks are lighter and more maneuverable for fishing weed-choked ponds and narrow marsh creeks. The ultimate all terrain boat, a paddle kayak is easier to drag across mud, pull through the sand, drop down a cliff, or hoist over a deadfall. With fewer moving parts, paddle kayaks are more reliable too.

Kayak angler in a creek
Paddle kayaks are lighter and more maneuverable for fishing weed-choked ponds and narrow marsh creeks. West Marine / Perception

For the best paddling experience, choose a longer, narrow kayak with a low-profile seat that is easier to propel with a paddle. Short, wide paddle kayaks increase stability and maneuverability, making them perfect for fishing shallow, sheltered water. When loading the kayak with gear, count every ounce; a heavy kayak is more difficult to paddle. To further improve performance, match the kayak to the lightest, stiffest carbon-fiber and fiberglass paddle.

Should You Use a Pedal System?

Many anglers are more interested in fishing than paddling. For the most efficient way to propel a kayak, you can’t beat a pedal system. Pedal kayaks use bicycle pedals to power a propeller or flippers below the kayak. To control the boat’s direction, a pedal kayak uses a hand-operated rudder.

Perception pedal kayak
Pedal kayaks use bicycle pedals to power a propeller or flippers below the kayak. West Marine / Perception

Pedal kayaks go faster and farther with less effort. The pedal system also allows designers to create a more stable kayak with higher carrying capacity. Pedal kayaks are great for anglers looking to cover long distances through open water. With a pedal system, you can load the kayak with more gear and accessories. These easy-to-operate boats make kayak-fishing more accessible to more people. In a pedal kayak, anglers are more confident to go farther and fish longer.

Are You Looking for a Motorized Kayak?

The most recent trend in kayak propulsion is electric or gas motors. You can either add a motor to a fishing kayak or purchase a kayak pre-rigged with a motor. A small motor takes most of the effort out of kayaking. To propel the kayak to the fishing grounds quickly and efficiently, go with an electric outboard or trolling motor. An electric motor requires heavy batteries, so choose a kayak with plenty of capacity and stability. Some kayaks are large enough to host a small gas or propane outboard. These motors are easier to refuel, and they don’t require a battery.

Torqeedo on kayak
To propel the kayak to the fishing grounds quickly and efficiently, go with an electric outboard or trolling motor. West Marine / Torqeedo

Adding a motor to a kayak is so popular, the latest generation of kayaks are designed with flat areas and inserts in the bow and stern to accommodate a motor. And kayak motors include mounting plates and steering systems that are easy to install. To go anywhere easily, a motor system removes all the barriers to kayak-fishing.

Choosing the best kayak is the first step in having fun with kayak-fishing. Matching the boat to the type of fishing you plan to do will make you more comfortable and confident on the water. No matter how you fish, there are great options for sit-inside, sit-on-top and inflatable fishing kayaks. You just need to pick paddle, pedal or motor power. With all the great choices, the perfect fishing kayak is waiting for you.

Ready to buy? Stop by your local West Marine store or visit www.westmarine.com. For more how-to’s and advice on all things fishing and boating, visit West Advisor.

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